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Intermediate Championship: Athlone v Shandonagh

posted 31 May 2015, 13:48 by Athlone GAA
30th May (Rosemount) 
Intermediate Championship 
Athlone v Shandonagh 

Lining out in the unfamiliar colours of Athlone Community College, who kindly loaned us their jerseys to avoid a clash with the light blue of Shandonagh, Athlone were quickly out of the blocks and  a strong run from Ray Connellan set up his brother John to open the scoring after only 30 seconds.  John Stapleton added a second a minute later after a good team move and Athlone looked set fair to open a commanding lead, despite playing against the wind.  However some casual play meant that chances to stretch the lead went a-begging, which allowed  Shandonagh to establish a foothold in the game.  Fortunately for Athlone, they were wide from two placed balls before John Connellan stretched the lead to three, popping over the rebound when Ray Connellan’s free came back off the crossbar.

Shandonagh eventually opened their account from a free in the 13th minute, in an incident that saw wing-back Matthew Darling receive a very harsh black card, but that score was cancelled out almost immediately by a Ray Connellan free.  The North Westmeath men then enjoyed their best spell of the first half, and two points, one from a 45 and one from play, reduced the gap to the minimum with 20 minutes played.  That they were unable to fashion an equaliser was down to some superb disciplined defending from the Athlone defence, who again played well as a unit and didn’t allow their opponents any easy chances or concede any soft frees.  Instead a Ray Connellan free gave Athlone some breathing space, before a Shan point with the last kick of the half saw the sides go in at the break with Athlone leading by 0-05 to 0-04.

Athlone started the second half as they had the first, with a point after 30 seconds, this time from hard-working midfielder Jordan Marshment.  Shandonagh again brought the gap back to a point with a free but Athlone now had the advantage of the wind and were able to use the space this brought to stretch their lead to four points, the scores from John Connellan (a superb solo effort), Jack Quinn and Ray Connellan.  Athlone were now the better side but missed some goal chances which would’ve put them out of sight.  Instead their stubborn opponents refused to yield and another point from play meant that  there was still only a kick of a ball between the sides with 40 minutes gone, Athlone leading 0-09 to 0-06.  However more disciplined defending, with the full-back line of Eoin Maher, Damo Kelly and Fergal Murray being especially impressive, prevented the gap from being reduced any further and the next scores came from the Connellan brothers, John with a point after a great team move and Ray with a superb score from distance, to open up five point lead entering the final 10 minutes.  A tiring Shandonagh side got their final score after 22 minutes of the half but from then on it was all Athlone.  Two great Ray Connellan points from distance sandwiched a John Stapleton fisted score from close range, before centre-back Noel Mulligan, who had an excellent second half, scored a long range beauty of his own to leave the final score Athlone 0-15 Shandonagh 0-07

Athlone: Conal Sheeran, Fergal Murray, Damien Kelly, Eoin Maher, Daniel Lynam, Noel Mulligan, Matthew Darling, John Stapleton, Jordan Marshment, Stephen Ward, Charlie McMickan, John Egan, Ray Connellan, Jack Quinn, John Connellan.  Subs Used: Paul Bannon for Matthew Darling (Black Card).
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